America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I have had so LITTLE reading time lately, that for the first time since I started writing this blog more than a year ago, I didn’t have a review to post on Tuesday! WHAT? So this week, instead of posting a Top 5 on Thursday, I’m posting my review for the week.

“Sons of a revolution fight for liberty. They give blood, flesh, limbs, their very lives. But daughters . . . we sacrifice our eternal souls.”

first-daughter

Synopsis from GoodreadsBestselling authors Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie tell the fascinating, untold story of Thomas Jefferson’s eldest daughter, Martha “Patsy” Jefferson Randolph—a woman who kept the secrets of our most enigmatic founding father and shaped an American legacy.

From her earliest days, Patsy Jefferson knows that though her father loves his family dearly, his devotion to his country runs deeper still. As Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter, she becomes his helpmate, protector, and constant companion in the wake of her mother’s death, traveling with him when he becomes American minister to France.

It is in Paris, at the glittering court and among the first tumultuous days of revolution, that fifteen-year-old Patsy learns about her father’s troubling liaison with Sally Hemings, a slave girl her own age. Meanwhile, Patsy has fallen in love—with her father’s protégé William Short, a staunch abolitionist and ambitious diplomat. Torn between love, principles, and the bonds of family, Patsy questions whether she can choose a life as William’s wife and still be a devoted daughter.

Her choice will follow her in the years to come, to Virginia farmland, Monticello, and even the White House. And as scandal, tragedy, and poverty threaten her family, Patsy must decide how much she will sacrifice to protect her father’s reputation, in the process defining not just his political legacy, but that of the nation he founded.

Feelings: I’ve been reading so much young adult over the last few years that this book forced me into a total switch in mindset. The writing was so much more elevated than what I’ve been used to lately that at first, it was hard for me to get in to it. The beginning was stellar, then we went back in time and it slowed down a little. Once I got used to the rhetoric and the way the storyline flowed, I was hooked. But I had zero reading time. It took me about 3 weeks to finish this book, but I probably read the last 350 pages over 2 days. I got SO in to it!

One thing that I really appreciated was the author’s note at the back of the book. They explain where they took creative liberties and what parts of the story are rooted in truth. There were some things that shocked me and others that just made sense. I liked that they took the time to do this because I’m not a historian. I wasn’t fact checking as I read, but I WAS aware that I was ultimately reading fiction.

Issues: This wasn’t the kind of book where I put it down for the last time and could think of 3 things right off the bat that I didn’t like. So as of right now…24 hours after finishing this book…I have zero issues.

Characters: Patsy is a very complicated character. We see her grow from a young girl eager to please her father all the way to an older woman with a dozen children running around. She had quite a life for us to span in one book! She was hard to connect with at times, but I was finding it hard to put myself in her shoes. She lived a life that I can’t even imagine, even after reading about her. The pressures, the responsibilities, the constant flux of history…I found it al fascinating. I kept wanting different things to work out or play out differently, but it’s history. While the author’s did take some liberties, the heart of the story is there – the heart of who Patsy Jefferson, the First Daughter was. I learned about her and her family on every page, learned why they did what they did and what their world forced them to do.

Thomas Jefferson, you old goat. Of course, I learned about him in my middle and high school American history classes. Then I learned more about him in my college history courses, but still…what a guy. There was something about seeing him through his daughter’s eyes that was captivating. You see both the adoring daughter side, as well as the critical yet fiercely loyal side. They had a relationship that reminds me of my own with my father, built on a steady companionship. One thing that I really appreciated about this book was that they didn’t seek to make the founding fathers perfect, because they were very flawed human beings. We saw their failures and their virtues alike.

Genre: I love historical fiction. This book, though, is like a whole new level of the genre. You can see on each page how painstakingly researched the storyline was. Every piece of the tale is rich and bursts off of the page. It’s highly engaging prose, for those of you that maybe tend to hesitate when it comes to historical fiction, expecting it to be droll and bleh. This is SO not that!

Final thoughts: This book is especially great for those of us Hamilton fans. A chunk of this book takes place while that musical is going on (in regards to the timeline), so we see Jefferson’s perspective from across the pond. We also get Jefferson’s side of his conflict with Alexander Hamilton. Lafayette is a reoccurring character, as well as a handful of other guys.

 

Goodreads rating: 4.23/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.7/5

My rating: 5/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

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